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Napoleon and Caesar

Napoleon Bonaparte’s success as a military leader and conqueror can also be seen in another great leader, Julius Caesar. Both Napoleon and Caesar achieved great glory by bringing their countries out of turmoil. It was Caesar, that Napoleon modeled himself after, he wanted to be as great, if not greater than Caesar. Looking to the past, Napoleon knew what steps to take in order to achieve success Napoleon devoured books on the art of war. Volume after volume of military theory was read, analyzed and criticized.

He studied the campaigns of history’s most famous commanders; Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Frederick the Great and his favorite and most influential, Julius Caesar (Marrin 17). Julius Caesar was the strong leader for the Romans who changed the course of history of the Greco – Roman world decisively and irreversibly. Caesar was able to create the Roman Empire because of his strength and his strong war strategies (Duggan 117). Julius Caesar was to become one of the greatest generals, conquering the whole of Gaul.

In 58 BC, Caesar became governor and military commander of Gaul, which included modern France, Belgium, and portions of Switzerland, Holland, and Germany west of the Rhine. For the next eight years, Caesar led military campaigns involving both the Roman legions and tribes in Gaul who were often competing among themselves. Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman whose dictatorship was pivotal in Rome’s transition from republic to empire (Duggan 84).

Caesar’s principles were to keep his forces united; to be vulnerable at no point, to strike speedily at critical points; to rely on moral factors, such as his reputation and the fear he inspired, as well as political means in order to insure the loyalty of his allies and the submissiveness of the conquered nations. He made use of every possible opportunity to increase his chances of victory on the battlefield and, in order to accomplish this, he needed unity of all his troops (Duggan 117).

From the time that he had first faced battle in Gaul and discovered his own military genius, Caesar was evidently fascinated and obsessed by military and imperial problems. He gave them an absolute priority over the more delicate by no less fundamental task of revising the Roman constitution. The need in the latter sphere was a solution which would introduce such elements of authoritarianism, which were necessary to check corruption and administrative weakness (Grant, Caesar 61).

The story of all his battles and wars has been preserved in Caesar’s written account, Commentaries on the Gallic Wars, originally published in 50 B. C. For this period, Caesar is the only existent source providing first-hand descriptions of Britain. While no doubt self-serving in a political sense when written, Caesar’s account is nevertheless regarded as basically accurate and historically reliable (Frere 68). Caesar was appointed dictator for a year starting in 49 B. C. , for two years in 48 B. C. , for ten years in 46 B. C. and finally dictator for life in 44 B. C. Taking over as Dictator for life, enabled Caesar to gain unrestricted power.

He was able to run a strong military and even though he was considered only a dictator he wrote laws that actually made him have the same powers as a king. The conspirators saw the problem that had arised and so they planned the murder of Caesar on the Ides of March. Caesar was killed and there was another triumvirate (government ruled by three) formed. Caesar was a strong military leader that had showed strength and courage to take over the town and he was able to form a civilization that was strong militarily and politically (Grant, Caesar 187).

Caesar was one of the great generals of history; his name became synonymous with leadership, hence the titles Kaiser, and Tsar. Having been promoted over the heads of older officers, Napoleon’s unbroken run of victories over the armies of both Austria and Piedmont established his credibility as a commander, while his concern for his previously ill-equipped soldiers won their loyalty. During the storming of a bridge at Lodi, he fought alongside his troops, and earned from them the nickname of “the little corporal” (Castelot 68). Under the new government Napoleon was made commander of the French army in Italy.

During this campaign the French realized how smart Napoleon was. He developed a tactic that worked very efficiently. He would cut the enemy’s army in to two parts, then throw all his force on one side before the other side could rejoin them (Weidhorn 86). Napoleon read Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic Wars and took note of the propaganda he used. Napoleon would also use favorable descriptions of battle to sell himself to the Directory and to the people. Letters were written that showed Napoleon as the victor even when he lost battles in Egypt.

The factualness of these letters were never tested but proved to be a force in showing his strength and ability to lead an army against far bigger enemies (Marrin 99). Napoleon returned to find the Directory was a mess. He, in his selfish way, saw this as the perfect time for self-advancement. So in November of 1799 he overthrew the Directory. Napoleon set up a government called the Consulate. He was the first of three consuls. Three years later he made himself first consul for life. Everyone in France loved Napoleon at that time. Then he started increasing his power (Marrin 81-82).

Napoleon started calling himself Napoleon I, instead of General Bonaparte. He had complete political and military power in France. But he still hadn’t built up his great eastern empire. The Austrian’s had been defeated at Marenegro. The German states and England were tired of fighting so they signed a peace treaty of Aimens in 1802. This was the first time since 1792 that France was at peace with the whole world. During the next 14 months of peace Napoleon drastically altered Europe and reshaped France. He became president of the Italian Republic, he reshaped Switzerland with France.

He annexed Piedmont, Parma, and the island of Elba to France (Marrin 82-86). Through his military exploits and his ruthless efficiency, Napoleon rose from obscurity to become Napoleon I, Emperor of France. He is both a historical figure and a legend, Napoleon was one of the greatest military commanders in history. He has also been portrayed as a power hungry conqueror. Napoleon denied being such a conqueror. He argued that, instead, he had attempted to build a federation of free peoples in a Europe united under a liberal government. But if this was his goal he intended to achieve it by concentrating power in his own hands (Castelot 96).

However, in the states he created, Napoleon granted constitutions, introduced law codes, abolished feudalism, created efficient governments and fostered education, science, literature and the arts (Castelot 97). Emperor Napoleon proved to be a superb civil administrator. One of his greatest achievements was his supervision of the revision and collection of French law into codes. The new law codes, seven in number, incorporated some of the freedoms gained by the people of France during the French revolution, including religious toleration and the abolition of serfdom.

The most famous of the codes, the Code Napoleon or Code Civil, still forms the basis of French civil law (Marrin 90). Napoleon should have learned from Caesar’s one mistake of having too much power, because it would eventually cause him to be exiled to the island of Elba. The Grand Alliance had crushed Napoleon’s Grande Armee. Napoleon tried conquering all of Europe, but not all of Europe wanted to be ruled by a military dictator. Instead, they wanted the return of the Bourbon empire, where peace could be restored and power limited so no ruler could take matters into his own hands again.

Too much power eventually became the downfall of Napoleon as it did Caesar. People became fearful and did not like that one person could control all of Europe. In the beginning they were supportive because he ended the wars and fighting, but now he brought it back which made his citizens oppose him and what he stood for (Weidhorn 193). Napoleon and Caesar took their struggling nations out of turmoil and gave them order, and for that the people loved them. Caesar put an end to the Gallic and Civil wars that Rome was involved in, with that, he entered into power .

Napoleon took France out of the French Revolution by overthrowing the then government, the Directory. Napoleon instated a new government the Consulate and crowned himself first Consul and three years later, Consul for life, Caesar became all powerful when named dictator for life. Both men knew in order to be a successful leader, they had to have the full support of the military. Power and territory were increased, because there armies were always the biggest and responsible for putting down any revolts that might occur.

Caesar introduced propaganda and Napoleon followed his lead. Favorable accounts were written which proved to give them a political edge, and the support of the people. Caesar was a friend of his people and gave many lands to his soldiers and to the poor, he built bridges, roads and waterworks. Napoleon was also civil in the beginning of his reign, abolishing serfdom, passing laws and granting universal male suffrage. Both men were well liked until they abused there powers and privileges. They fell for the same reason, too much power.

Caesar was murdered because his role as dictator came to close to being a king and Napoleon did not know where to draw the line and his army eventually turned against him. Napoleon Bonaparte was able to rise to power because of another great general that came before him, Julius Caesar. Napoleon was a success because he looked to the past, and emulated Caesar; he built up his army, conquered most of Europe, became a dictator for life and eventually fell from power, because like Caesar, he did not know where to draw the line.

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